Networking vendor, Ruckus Wireless, has unveiled its Wi-Fi smart positioning technology, SPoT.
The software provides carriers, service providers and enterprises with usage and traffic information within their Wi-Fi networks.
Ruckus expects the software to have particular benefits for areas with high levels of foot traffic. Retailers and shopping centres are the vendor's initial target vertical.
While the system is not a first-to-market technology, Ruckus said the Cloud-based nature of the service and the sophistication of its analytics sets it apart from competitors' products.
“The way the technology works is that it takes the media access control (MAC) addresses of mobile devices and it caches them," Ruckus country sales manager, Chris Evans, said.
"The actual dashboard the customer gets does not reveal individual MAC addresses, it only shows a volume statistic. It lists total numbers of people, percentage of new versus repeat users, dwell time and a heat map in colour form of where the most popular places in the network area are."
SPoT does not require users to be connected to a particular Wi-Fi network in order to gather data; it only needs a device to have its Wi-Fi connectivity enabled.Read more:Seamless Wi-FI in NZ is up to the carriers: Ruckus
“There are some design criteria around where you position IPs that make it slightly different from a standard networking solution. However, it is our intention to teach our channel partners how to do that.”
The company is currently running a dozen beta projects globally, one of which involves a customer in Australia. While Evans did not disclose the local customer's name, he did reveal it is a shopping centre operator with multiple locations. Roll-out is planned for a number of the customer's venues, initially focussing on one site.
SPoT is priced at $US300 per access point per year. Australian and New Zealand prices will be available at launch. It will become available with Ruckus’ next generation of code, Version 9.8, that is due April or May 2014. It will also be available with all new Ruckus hardware. Existing users will be able to upgrade current systems with the additional cost of the subscription.
Implications for public spaces
Evans said that Ruckus is still trying to determine the full extent of applications for SPoT. Retail and shopping centres are the initial targets due to the commercial nature of the applications. Other adopters could include train stations and city councils.
Evans said government organisations could plan infrastructure around some of the statistics gained from the system; large government spend on monitoring activity in the public space could constitute a significant cost saving if deployed effectively.
Perth, Brisbane and Cairns have all done deals with Ruckus to roll-out public Wi-Fi spaces. The company is working with these local government organisations to show how SPoT can assist in planning the deployment of such networks; councils are able to use the technology to see how much traffic is going down certain streets or arcades and make adjustments to planning accordingly.
The limitations of the technology are its reliance on Wi-Fi to operate. Evans stated he has seen research that shows around 70 per cent of mobile devices have Wi-Fi switched on at any one time.
As the use of mobile technology becomes increasingly pervasive and Wi-Fi becomes more advanced, systems such as this will become increasingly popular. As a way for business and government to ascertain information about individuals, services that skirt privacy issues such as MAC address identification may raise privacy concerns depending on how they are utilised.